The Golan Heights is a region smack dab in the middle of Palestine. It is a a verdant, beautiful area (for the region) that provides water for much of the area and is the richest farmland in Palestine. Needless to say, it was one of the areas the Talon was quick to seize. However, the people who contested the occupation refused to accept the new peace, and dug in and prepared for an attack.
The Talon were unconcerned. They sent the first Cataphract Land Ironclad ever made, the Ironmongery against them. The trenches and foxholes were no proof against the Cataphract’s steam cannons and massive size. However, the Ironmongery lacked the legs of its brothers, and literally got stuck in the mud in the middle of the heights. Regardless, it was still able to rout the enemy by its mere presence, not to mention its continuing bombardment.
As any machinery to remove the Ironmongery wouldn’t be developed until the Nightingale Carryall decades later, it was left there for good. Salvaging what they could from the situation, the Ironmongery was converted into an armoured fortress, and surrounded by a curtain wall and turrets, while having its Automaton workshop removed. Eventually, the whole complex was named Hawk’s Perch, and it was the lynchpin of the Talon’s defence, as it guarded the Talon’s heartland in Palestine from attack. As it turns out, it would prove its worth three times throughout its history.
First Siege of Hawk's PerchEdit
|First Siege of Hawk’s Perch|
|Previous||World War I|
|Next||Second Siege of Hawk's Perch|
|Date||February 25th, 1924|
|Place||Golan Heights, Palestine|
|Result||Black Hand repulsed|
|Order of the Talon||Cult of the Black Hand|
|Lord Varitan||Radoslav Karadžic|
|• Army of Acre||• Uprising of Rats
Throughout the history of the Cult, it was very rare for the Cult to attack the Talon directly. The Talon had such mighty defensive weapons such as the Cataphract Land Ironclad and the Crawler. As such, the Cult only struck at that which the Talon valued. The only time it attacked the Order itself was when it was vulnerable. When the Talon was consolidating its Kingdom of Jerusalem, it was very vulnerable.
It is not known who betrayed the Talon’s position. All that is known is that a Talon Hawk flew into the then-new Sanctum Majoris, with a carrier pigeon in its beak. Attached to its leg was a message stamped with the seal of the Black Hand, with the message “We have heard, brother, and we come”. Immediately, all members of the Order in Palestine mobilised. Lord Varitan himself mounted his horse and rode to where the thought the enemy would attack, Hawk’s Perch.
Varitan was correct. The Black Hand wanted to strike there for a variety of reasons, from spiking the Kingdom’s drinking water, to making the Talon more vulnerable to further attacks. The future of the Talon depended on Hawk’s Perch holding against the massive numbers set against its tiny garrison.
Force Composition Edit
Talon Forces Edit
While the garrison of Hawk’s Perch mostly came down to a few Footmen keeping watch, the Army of Acre was being gathered by Lord Varitan using called favours, appeals to honour, and (it is rumoured) threats of Varitan's infamous right hook against the least cooperative people. Thus, the Army of Acre itself was a assemblage of various forces from the many orders and monasteries of the Order of the Talon. Unfortunately, it was at under strength due to losses in battle and lack of effective equipment. The quick strategic movements it had been doing meant it had to leave its heavy walkers and tracks behind. Beyond that, most of the various orders like the Knights Templar and the Priests of Judas were elsewhere in the world, fighting the after affects of the Great War. While they had already sent their vehicles to Palestine, they themselves could not man them. Fortunately, enough veterans of no order were around to operate them with little loss of effectiveness.
The Army of Acre had many men (for a Talon force), but lacked any sort of anti-tank weaponry, much like the rest of the world at the time. However, they could still kill the cultists on the ground, and man the defences of Hawk's Perch itself. On the plus side, the Army of Acre had all the Cleric Tracks the Talon had at the time. Unfortunately, this was not many, as more tanks to convert into Clerics were still being shipped. Most notably, a shining new Consecrator Track was attached to support the army to the best of it’s abilities. Best of all, the presence of Lord Varitan meant that all obeyed his orders, despite whatever different commanding officers they may have had back in the heartland.
Black Hand Forces Edit
The Uprising of Rats was the given name to the private army of the charismatic and high ranking Cult member Radoslav Karadžic (if indeed that was his real name), who ruled the Serbian underworld. Karadžic was one of the Order’s most hated foes for his many actions against them and innocent people, and may have been the man who shot Archduke Ferdinand eight years earlier. That he would reveal himself to head an army proved just how dedicated he was to destroying Hawk’s Perch.
From across Europe, cultists were recruited to swell the army in size. They were armed with weapons scavenged from the trenches of WWI, mostly bolt action rifles. They also used a fast fading arm of warfare, as many of the more skilled cultists were mounted on horses. They were armed with a motley assortment of pistols, carbines, and even blades. In true Black Hand fashion, they were used mostly to screen the real operation.
The Black Hand were very much ahead of the times in one regard. Using bribery, highly placed cult members, and bold thefts of military stockyards, the Black Hand had assembled an upstanding number of tanks, gathered up from various armies of Europe. The Black Hand even managed to procure a rare A7V, which was Germany's first tank and a mobile bunker brimming with weapons, which Karadžic used as a mount. The concept of a command tank was not conceived yet, and radio did not exist, so he merely used messengers on horses to command the battle. Many of the tanks were modified to the best of the Black Hand’s abilities be more efficient on the battle.
No Man's Land Edit
The Black Hand gathered in the Mardin province in Turkey, which was then a newly made democracy and was in such chaos that an army gathered in the wilderness didn't attract any attention. With drug hazed speed they rushed through Syria before the few people in the area could stop them. Any Talon they came across were slaughtered.
Just before they neared Hawk's Perch, Lord Varitan arrived and took command. He ordered that the Ironmongery to bombard the area with its steam cannons, covering the fallow farmlands with craters. In the meantime, Varitan organized the guards to five groups; one for each side and the fifth to support whatever side was being attacked. He also moved the Flame turrets facing towards where the Black Hand were coming from, with the cannons on the flanks. The guards of Hawk's Perch didn't understand all his orders but followed them anyways. Varitan gazed at his sword and reluctantly sheathed it, taking a flare gun from a guard instead.
From the mirage of the desert came the tanks of the Black Hand, many draped with banners and red glass. Amongst them were the men and cavalry, all their faces covered with barbaric and grotesque masks. Quickly, they broke into small but organised groups to avoid the Ironmongery's return fire. However, the tanks were mired down in the craters left by the earlier bombardment. Many of the easily-bogged St. Chamond Tanks were immobilized all together, and tracked and destroyed by the Ironmongery's fire. However, too few tanks were destroyed to stop the attack.
As soon as the tanks got in range (and sometimes before), the tanks opened fire on the fortress. The curtain walls quickly crumbled against the assault, to the joy of the Black Hand. The tanks spread out further to avoid counter fire from the Ironmongery as the infantry swarmed into the holes left in the wall. This, however, was planned, as the flame turrets and the Footmen inside turned the infantry back again and again. Meanwhile, the cannon turrets on the flanks shot at the the passing tanks, hitting many in the more vulnerable side areas. The Black Hand tanks turned to once again attack the base, this time aiming to smash it completely. Using a pocket watch and his own keen sense of timing, Varitan waited until the exact optimum second, and launched his flare.
Steel Beasts Edit
As soon as they saw the flare, the Army of Acre's tracks moved out, moving across the fields without craters. A few Black Hand tanks turned about to face them, but not before several were destroyed by the Cleric's fire. The tanks themselves couldn't look more different, with the Talon's vehicles still gleaming brightly from their construction mere years earlier, and the Black Hand's painted in the black and reds they they always favoured. In a scene evocative of the great war six years earlier, large, lumbering tanks creaked across muddy, torn land supported by columns of infantry. Whenever a tank met another, they would trade shots while the infantry charged forward, though here the Black Hand had the advantage, as many tanks had machine guns as well as cannons.
Less effective were the Hussar trikes. Using a flamethrower on a metal box had very little effect, and the best they could do is hope fire entered through the viewing slits. Most Hussars supported Clerics by incinerating the Black Hand infantry, levelling the playing field somewhat. Unfortunately, this also put them within firing range of the Black Hand tanks. However, the few around the Consecrator had better luck. The Consecrator would cover the Black Hand tank with oil, which when ignited by the Inquisitor's fired so hot that the crew inside died of rapid heat stroke.
Unfortunately, this was not enough. The Black Hand simply had more tanks, and the Order weren't destroying them quickly enough. Renault FT-17s in particular were surrounding Hawk's Perch and destroying all the turrets. Reinforcements from the Army of Acre were able to repulse the infantry attacks, but they couldn't do much against tanks. Worse, the speedy Whippet tanks were disengaging from the battle entirely, moving on to cause havoc behind the Talon lines.
Varitan put the most able man in command as he mounted his horse. He deduced that the A7V, being one of twenty in the world, was if not the command vehicle something significant. Getting to it was the real problem. When asked by a Footman what his plan was, he responded that he didn't know, but he hoped it worked. Putting his spurs to his horse, he galloped onto the battlefield.
Full Tilt Edit
Varitan dodged tank fire and avoided most infantry, but he couldn't avoid the Black Hand cavalry as a group began pursuing him halfway to the A7V. Varitan grinned wickedly and unsheathed his sword, eager to once again fight as the knights of old. The cavalry began firing their carbines and revolvers at him, but the rough ground made accuracy troublesome. Varitan slowed his steed and soon the cavalry caught up. The cavalry tried to stop, but save for the one who's horse fell out from under him, they were going too fast to stop, and were well within charging range.
Like a knight of old, Varitan ran through each cavalry before they could fire their revolvers. The remaining cavalry took out their various hand weapons, from long knives to cudgels, but Varitan parried their blows expertly and killed them in turn. However, the last cavalry man kept his distance and took his time aiming his carbine, and as soon as Varitan killed the last of his fellows, he shot Varitan's horse from under him. Though Varitan threw his sword and impaled the cavalryman before he had time to reload, Varitan had lost his mount, and the horses of all the cavalry had already fled in terror. Varitan faced the real prospect of being swamped by Black Hand infantry, something he would not survive.
However, by chance an Hussar Trike came nearby. It came as soon as Varitan signalled, and started for the A7V as soon as he climbed on top. The Hussar pilot turned its flamethrowers backwards and fired full blast, and the Hussar ripped across the battlefield, with its front wheels often off the ground and jumping across many craters. Varitan could barely hang on, all the while thanking God that his practice with Indian Clubs had made his arms so strong.
The Hussar was moving so fast it collided with the A7V, though both vehicles were so solidly made neither received any damage. However, the gunners inside quickly reacted and shot everything into the trike. Varitan jumped off onto the top of the A7V just before the Hussar was destroyed by a cannon blast. Unsheathing his sword once again, he struck the sword again and again into the hatch on top, opening it with a combination of impacts and heat from the static electricity. Jumping in, he killed most of the crew with one complete swing of his sword.
He did not kill Karadžic, however. From behind Varitan he hit him in the back with his weighted sceptre with such impact that it broke a few ribs, knocking him to the ground. Varitan quickly rolled around and got back up, but he was severely limited by the cramped confines of the A7V, and had difficulty swinging his sword fully. Karadžic, however, knew where every rivet was, and often was able to swing his sceptre fully using a space just inches across. While Varitan was able to parry most of them, Karadžic finally managed to hit Varitan fully on the leg, breaking it with an audible snap. With his foe disabled, Karadžic stood to gloat. Varitan thought quickly, and jammed his sword into a nearby belt of machine gun ammunition. The static electricity detonated the ammunition, causing the bullets to ricochet inside the tank, hitting Karadžic with 13 bullets in as many directions. As Varitan was lying down, he avoided them all.
Varitan was still wounded, though, and could take no further active participation of the battle. However, a messenger of the Black Hand came and asked for the orders for the Renault FT-17s. Removing his gauntlet and replacing it with Karadžic's barbed glove, he quickly wrote new orders and passed them out. The orders were that the Talon were using Mark Vs in battle, and to destroy them. The FT-17s moved out to destroy the Mark Vs on their own side (and reportedly, one Mark V destroyed itself), relieving Hawk's Perch and disrupting the battle. In the chaos, the Cleric tracks hit the Black Hand tanks in the rear and destroyed them, leaving the easy task of mopping up the infantry the only stage left.
Hussar Trikes incinerated all the Black Hand infantry and cavalry left on the battle, which were flushed out by the garrison of Hawk's Perch charging out of their ruined fortifications. The Cleric Tanks, in turn, turned around and hunted down the Whippet tanks and destroyed them before they could kill anyone. All this was done without a single further casualty.
Lord Varitan was gravely wounded in the battle, and was quickly taken to the St. Rita's Hospital for recovery. Varitan was in such excellent shape that recovery was quick, and he left as soon as he could walk so that his bed could be free for someone more deserving, spending the rest of the recovery in Palestine.
Though many Clerics and Hussars were destroyed, all were recovered and painstakingly rebuilt as good as new. Better yet, all the Mark V wrecks left were thrice consecrated, rebuilt as Clerics, and still serve the Talon to this day.
The effectiveness of the Army of Acre showed many in the Talon that inter-order cooperation on modern, large scale military operations was possible, as some had feared it would not be. The important step, it was realized, was to have a strong, single commander with the will to requisition whatever he needed regardless of whom they belonged to, and to treat the whole army as one unit instead of a morass of smaller units.
The loss of Karadžic and much of the Black Hand's military force set the cult back years, undoing a fraction of what they had gained from World War I. Worse for the Cult was the morale boost to the Talon, as they proved their efforts were not for naught, the Black Hand could be defeated, and Palestine was theirs to build as the Kingdom of Jerusalem.